In addition to providing essential public services, Benton County will continue supporting primary sectors of the economy in 2009. Sustainability in the areas of agriculture, industry, tourism, transportation and Hanford cleanup are key to our community’s progress during these challenging times.
As the largest employer over the greatest area for the longest time, agriculture retains it primacy in shaping the culture and economy of our region, Indeed, Benton County ranks third in Washington and 53rd in the nation in market value of agricultural products. In order for agriculture to remain viable over the long term, dependable water supplies and reliable transportation infrastructure are essential.
In 2009, Benton County continues its efforts to plan for our community’s water quality and quantity needs, focusing on better conservation, more efficient delivery and greater storage capacity. The county will adopt a “waterfront plan” for south Benton County this year that will lay the foundation for ensuring clean, reliable water supplies and sustainable fisheries for the coming decades. Father north in the complex Yakima River Basin, Benton County will continue to work with constituents and partnering agencies to develop long-term solutions for meeting the municipal, industrial, agricultural and environmental water demands over the next century.
Well-planned transportation infrastructure is not only key in supporting the farm-to-market part of the economy, but also in enhancing opportunities for industry, enriching the experience for our visitors and improving the commute for our residents. Three transportation projects highlight improvements in this area: First, the “Finley Intertie” will be completed in 2009. More formally known as County Road 397, the Intertie will industrial lands in Finley with the agricultural lands of the Horse Heaven Hills when it is completed. This will not only link agricultural support services with the growers, but also will divert more truck traffic away from the residential areas of Kennewick. The Intertie “ties together” Highway 397 with Interstate 82, improving efficiency and safety.
Also in Finley, Piert Road will be extended to improve access to industrial lands and improve safety at the railroad crossings. The railroad interface is also a feature of the third main project — the reconfiguration of Webber Canyon Road in Kiona. In this project, the road will be realigned to take a more level and direct course southward out of Benton City, and the at-grade railroad crossing will be eliminated.
Benton County concluded another busy year of projects on its own properties in 2008. At the Justice Center in Kennewick, courtrooms were added and remodeled, allowing for more timely and efficient disposal of the District Court docket. A Comprehensive Parks Plan was also completed for the park system, which will help identify and prioritize projects in the parks for the coming years, including work on a disc golf course at Two Rivers Parks and a master plan for Badger Mountain in 2009.
Finally, it is important to mention the value of partnerships when discussing progress. Benton County relies heavily on partnerships in advancing projects and programs for the community. We have developed enduring relationships with the cities, utilities and irrigation districts with which we collaborate on many projects, and also work with corporate partners, industry representatives and the non-profit sector to bring innovation and resources to problems solving.
Some examples of issues we will continue to work with our partners on in 2009 include an animal control strategy that meets the needs of urban and rural residents, sustaining public health services in the face of sharply declining budgets, continuing work on cleanup and decommissioning at the Hanford site, and developing tourism opportunities with projects like the Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser and the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center in Richland.
Benton County is proud of our community and the people who make it a great place to live. We enjoy working with our partners that are illustrative of the progress we have all made and we continue to look for creative solutions to our many challenges in 2009.
Source: Tri-City Herald, Progress 2009 guide